A Manipal-based start-up with a strong vision, Velox aims to promote and encourage cycling among the students of Manipal. We sat down with them to ask them about their journey so far, how they’re doing now and their plans for the future and they had plenty to say.
MTTN: What is Velox all about and what inspired you to come together for this initiative?
Velox: Velox is essentially a bicycle renting system that aims to make travelling across the campus much easier for everyone. We chose bicycles because they are the cheapest mode of transport and are also eco-friendly. We intended to set up stations at different points all over the campus from where one could rent a bicycle and drop it off at any other station when they are done. We aim to increase accessibility to bicycles and thereby promote easy travel within the campus. We were inspired by similar models already in place in London and even a few colleges in India.
MTTN: Bicycle stations?
Velox: Yes, we aim to have manual stations at first and then move to automated stations around MIT. Automated stations require an RF identity card with credit in it. One can swipe it to unlock a bicycle, provided you have credit on the card. This system reduces human dependency and is already used for metro tickets around the world. A manual station has an attendant who helps carry out the renting process.
MTTN: How did you go about bringing this idea to fruition?
Velox: The first thing we did was to conduct a survey using a Google form. We wanted to gauge the receptivity of the idea and see how much support it would generate. To our delight, the idea was well received by the students. Our plan hinged on the college’s support and hence we informed the Director at the beginning of the last semester. We had hoped to start the system by the end last semester so that we could study renting patterns and better our strategy during the summer break.
MTTN: How did the management respond to this idea? And did the Director encourage the idea?
Velox: The Director was very friendly and supportive. He convened a meeting with the Security Section, the Assistant Director for Student Welfare and other officials. Here they voiced a few concerns they had regarding our model. Security of the students was an issue and so was the insurance of the bicycles. They also didn’t want the bicycles to going out of campus, on which we concurred and agreed to resolve. The Director assured us of his support and said that they wouldn’t let us fail, given that we resolved the issues.
MTTN: How did you smooth out these rough edges pointed out by the management?
Velox: “We tried our level best to iron out all the kinks pointed out by the management. We assured them of security and showed them how accidents were extremely rare on campus. We tried very hard to get insurance. To that end, we visited more than ten insurance companies, but none had bicycle renting insurance. In spite of all this, we were hopeful about launching Velox by the end of last semester.”
MTTN: What prevented the launch last semester?
Velox: We had manual stations in place for the launch last semester and had started working on the automated stations too. But towards the end, the management seemed dissatisfied with our model. We worked very hard to work out the problems, especially the insurance part, but to no avail. The Associate Director asked us to first resolve the problem; but with the end semester exams just round the corner, we were forced to push the launch to the next semester. We didn’t lose hope and focused on working hard in the summer.
MTTN: What was done in the summer? And what was the end result?
Velox: We worked on a basic prototype of our model in Noida for over ten days. We approached more insurance companies and tried to get insurance, but with no results. We came to Manipal in early July so that we could work with the management to solve our problems. We attempted to address every issue raised by the management but by mid-August, it was evident that we would unable to get their support for our start up. This was a big blow for our team, including all 25 interns who had worked relentlessly to make this idea a success.
MTTN: What are your plans for the future?
Velox: We are extremely proud of what we have achieved so far. All of us are from different streams like Mechatronics, Mechanical, IT and we were able to use our collective knowledge for practical purposes; a big accomplishment for us. That being said, we hope to garner the support of the people to infuse new life in our start up. With the help of the students, we are sure to overcome any hurdle and achieve what we had envisioned. We hope to make the campus more accessible with our love for cycling. And any student who shares this passion can still approach us to make travel easier.
-Shagun Nevatia for MTTN